There are always three sides to a story; the first side, the second side and the truth. In this story, the third side seems to be in dispute.
The nation got confused when a video was surfaced over the internet where Indian Army’s Arunachal Scouts personnel were seen vandalising a Police station in Arunachal Pradesh’s Bomdila as well as an officer issuing threat statement to a police officer.
Let’s try to understand what all has happened from the stories of both the parties concerned.
On Friday night, the Bomdila Police picked up two Jawans of Arunachal Scouts who were allegedly intoxicated, found to have misbehaved with women and created nuisance during Buddha Mahotsava in Bomdila area of West Kameng district.
According to West Kameng SP, Raja Banthia, “The SHO went to the spot and two soldiers were brought to police station for medical examination. They were found to be intoxicated. An Army Major came to the police station and apologised. He gave a written undertaking that the men would be presented whenever required for any inquiry and took them away.”
However, things took a violent turn when around 100 Arunachal Scout (AS) Jawans were seen vandalising the Bomdila Police Station as well as a PWD office in the vicinity on Saturday. The violent Army personnel also attacked the policemen present in the police station including Ashok Tayeng, officer-in-charge (OC) of Bomdila PS. Allegedly the Army personnel snatched away the mobile phones as well as arms and ammunition present in the station. A photo of the damaged PCR van has surfaced on the internet which shows how badly the army jawans used force.
According to Banthia, on Saturday morning, 2nd AS Commanding Officer (CO), Firdosh P Dubash along with an adjutant and jawans came to the police station and abused the OC as well as threatened to kill him. He told the press, “As soon as the commanding officer left, over 100 armed soldiers came in trucks fitted with LMGs. We had called the CRPF for help. The soldiers vandalised our property, broke glasses of our vehicles and threw stones. I informed the DC (Dr. Sonal Swaroop, IAS) and as she arrived, stones were thrown and abuses were hurled at her.”
According to sources in Bomdila, the DC vehicle was stopped and the jawans started pelting stones as well as assaulted her. The jawans allegedly bought Machete (Dao), sticks and other lethal weapons to ransack the PS and attack the policemen.
One eyewitness on the ground of anonymity told that the jawans even thrashed a bystander who was filming the whole incident on his mobile phone; they snatched away his mobile. DC alleges that the SP was also assaulted, she said, “The SP was assaulted and had a bruise. A soldier hit him in his abdomen by a rifle butt.”
With the support of the District Administration, Community Based Organisation (CBO), a joint forum of six communities/tribes in the district took to the street and protested against the behaviour of AS personnel. In a memorandum, the CBO has condemned the act of AS jawans for heckling the SP and DC, vandalising public properties and have demanded the immediate withdrawal of the AS battalion from the district.
The IAS Association have condemned the incident and have demanded a probe into it. Rakesh Srivastava, Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development and President, Indian Civil & Administrative Services (Central) Association has written a letter to Sanjay Mitra, Defence Secretary to deliver justice.
The District police have ordered an ASP-level officer probe into it as well as five FIRs have been filed in this connection.
Protest by the public (Watch video)
The Indian Army, Lt. Col Harsh Wardhan Pande has released a statement that, “They (two jawans) were severely beaten up in the police lock-up despite they informing them that they are from Indian Army. Both the soldiers are presently admitted and are undergoing medical treatment in a Military hospital in Tenga for the grievous injury sustained during the custodial brutal manhandling inflicted upon them by Arunachal Police.”
The statement further said, “The police has not acted in a responsible and mature manner violating all the laid down protocols of dealing with the uniform personnel, as instead of locking up the soldiers in the police station they should have handed over the soldiers to the military authorities.”
“Commanding Officer tried to defuse the situation by having a meeting with Banthia at the SP Office, but the police personnel instigated the Commanding Officer’s protection by misbehaving with them and using unparliamentary language which led to a scuffle between both sides, ” added the statement released by PIB Defence Wing.
The Commanding Officer (CO) has filed an FIR against the OC for allegedly beating up the two AS jawans behind the lockup while being aware that they should be handed over to the Army Establishment or Station Headquarter. The CO also alleged that there was no information shared by the police to the army about the arrest. The FIR also mentioned the unruly attitude of the police personnel to the CO and the jawan who went to meet the SP.
However, the Army didn’t speak any word about the Police Station and PWD office vandalism as well as the direct threat issued by the CO to the OC which says on-record “Be very careful while you move out of Bomdila. This is a direct threat to you….”
Colonel issuing threat
You heard both the parties who are blaming each other. It is indeed tough to decide whom to believe, however, if the locals are to be believed then the AS jawans are being seen as the culprits. But without any proper investigation, we can’t just land in a judgment. The thing is, both the parties will enquire into the incident and again their report will be contracting with each other. Then whom shall we believe?
The public of Bomdila is very peaceful, as per my personal experience and they want peace in their district, however, blame-game between the Indian Army and the Administration are not allowing any peace or tranquillity in the area. Both, the khaki-uniformed jawans and the camouflaged jawans are seen with respect by every section of the people across the nation. In everything pertaining to human service, the armed forces and the administration have worked side-by-side. The armed force has responded to the administration every time they are in crisis, but last week’s incident has left a question mark on their work.